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TAKE a bow, Australia. You’re a world leader when it comes to therepresentation of women on banknotes. |
Each note of the Australian currency features a woman on one side and a manon the other, apart from the five dollar note, which depicts the monarch on thefront (who is, of course, currently a woman) and an image of Parliament Houseon the back.
Our legal tender hasn’t always been this female-friendly, of course. Beforethe introduction of polymer notes in the 1990s, the Australian currency wasdominated by masculine faces, with the only exceptions being the Queen andCaroline Chisholm.
A survey by BBC News Magazine found that Australia now rates alongsideSweden when it comes to the equal representation of women on its currency,while other western nations including the US, the UK and Canada lag a long waybehind.
The United States, in fact, rates alongside China, India, Indonesia andIsrael for its representation of women on banknotes, with a grand tally ofzero.
Other nations — including Malaysia, Singapore and South Africa — featurejust one man on all their banknotes, and no female figures.
Another group of countries feature just one woman on their money. There isbut one woman on the Japanese yen (out of four notes in circulation), one womanon the Swiss Franc (out of six notes) and one woman on the New Zealand dollar(out of five — although one of the other notes also features Queen Elizabeth).
How does the rest of the western world stack up? Pretty poorly.
UNITED KINGDOMTHE British currency is dominated by the visages of white men, includingscientist Charles Darwin and philosopher Adam Smith.
Nineteenth century social reformer Elizabeth Fry has been on the British £5note since 2002, but she will be replaced by Sir Winston Churchill in 2016. Herdumping prompted widespread outcry, and helped power a campaign to get JaneAusten on a bank note. The Pride and Prejudice author will grace the £10note from 2017.
The currency also features images of Queen Elizabeth II, but campaignerspoint out that she is there as monarch, and will ultimately be replaced by thefuture Charles III.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICATHE American currency pays homage to the “heavy hitters” of the nation’shistory, including Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S Grant, Alexander Hamilton andBenjamin Franklin.
But a new campaign called Women On 20sis seeking to replace former President AndrewJackson on the $20 bill with an eligible woman. Campaign organisers arecurrently conducting an online poll to identify which historical figure shouldbe so honoured.
“The United States needs to show the world that we, too, recognise and valuethe contributions of women,” campaign organiser Susan Ades Stone told the BBC.
“Our money says something about us and what we represent as a society. So ifwe’re all about gender equality and diversity and inclusion, let’s walk thewalk.”
CANADAA SIMILAR campaign is being organised in Canada. There, the number of women on the banknotes (apart from the Queen) slid from one to none in 2011, when the image ofsuffragette and politician Therese Casgrain was replaced with an image of anicebreaker.
“When we open our wallets and see the faces of four male prime ministers andQueen Elizabeth, the subtle message is that Canadian women aren’t worthy ofbeing celebrated,” campaigner Merna Forster told BBC.
SCANDINAVIAIN its survey, the BBC rated Australia alongside Sweden for itsrepresentation of women on the country’s banknotes. The famously liberalScandinavian nation currently features women on three banknotes, and that willcontinue when new notes will be minted in 2015 and 2016, featuring an equalrepresentation of men and women. Actor Greta Garbo, children’s author AstridLindgren and opera singer Birgit Nilsson will be rendered on the new notes.
“We thought it was very important to feature an equal number of men andwomen,” Susanne Eberstein, the chairman of the General Council at the country’sRiksbank, told the BBC. “It was well in line with our aims. It was verynatural.”
Interestingly, however, other Scandinaviancurrencies have followed the lead of the euro and dispensed with portraits ontheir legal tender in favour of architectural images. Denmark has alreadyswitched to new architecturally-inspired designs, while Norway is yet to makethe switch. The Russian rouble and the euro also feature architectural designs,although in the case of the euro the images depict architectural styles ratherthan any particular landmarks